CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- Yeager Airport's governing board voted Wednesday to explore funding options, including partnering with state, county and city officials for a possible bond issue, to pay for construction of a bridge giving more secure access to the National Guard 130th Airlift Wing's base.
Also Wednesday, Yeager board members learned that an expected loss of an overnight air traffic controller shift, because of the federal budget sequester, now appears unlikely to occur.
During Base Realignment and Closure Commission hearings in 2005, when the Air National Guard operation was threatened with closure, the use of an uncontrolled public road -- Coonskin Drive -- as the access route to the base was cited as a security deficiency.
"That security issue is the only issue raised in that BRAC report that hasn't since been mitigated," said former state National Guard head Allen Tackett, now a member of Yeager Airport's board of directors.
With the Department of Defense now asking Congress for another round of BRAC hearings, Tackett and current state military leaders worry that the 130th will be targeted for closure once more.
It is unknown now whether the Charleston Air Guard base will again be under BRAC review. "But when I read that the Department of Defense thinks we have too many C-130s (the aircraft flown by the Charleston Air Guard unit) and I know that they are trying to cut costs to meet their budget, I know we've got to be ready" for that possibility, Tackett said.
Last year, funding for the $9 million bridge was chopped from the federal Defense budget. Plans called for the bridge to Cross the Elk River near the Mink Shoals exit of Interstate 79, while a new access road leading from the span would enter and pass through Coonskin Park. The publicly traveled portion of the road would end at a security checkpoint at the boundary of park property and National Guard land.
"The bridge could be a win-win for both the park and the base," said Tackett, since Coonskin Park would get better, more direct access, and the 130th would have its security issue addressed.
Tackett said the state Armory Board, among other entities, has the authority to authorize bond issues to pay for such construction projects.
The airport board voted unanimously to authorize Tackett and airport director Rick Atkinson to work with city, county and state officials to come up with a plan to pay for the bridge.